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Indonesia: National Police Reform

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In the euphoria at the demise of the New Order, there was an expectation that the 1945 Constitution’s declaration that Indonesia was a state based on the rule of law might be resurrected after 40 years of neglect. The euphoria soon dissipated, however, when the scale of the challenge and the weakness of the first democratically elected government since 1957 became evident.

Reform of particular institutions, like the Indonesian National Police (INP), cannot be implemented in isolation from the other institutions of state. An effective police force will soon be rendered impotent if prosecutors, judges, and prison governors fail in their responsibilities. Likewise, reform in any of these institutions is unlikely if government revenues are not adequate to pay salaries that meet basic needs and cover the basic resources and operational costs of the institutions of government.

As a result of these shortcomings, corruption has become endemic across the whole field of public employment from top to bottom. Despite democratic elections, the underlying political structures are still based on deeply rooted patronage networks. Reforms that threaten these structures will be strongly resisted unless means are found to raise taxes to cover reasonable costs of government and legitimise the existing structures of power.

Reform is not so much a matter of inadequate law, feeble institutions, ethical codes or expertise as of mustering political will. The Abdurrahman Wahid government is in survival mode, and there are doubts about the capacity of a successor government to address fundamental issues. Even in the absence of political will, however, it should still be possible and productive to pursue reform in areas of police administration and operations that do not threaten the structures of power. As political conditions change, reform might spread to more significant areas, eventually containing corruption to manageable levels. But there should be no illusions that this is a short-term process.

Senior police leadership is seen by some observers to be heavily politicised and inclined to block officers who want to push reform more energetically. That might be so but it also faces an enormous task of maintaining a semblance of law and order across a huge country while trying to exercise expanded responsibilities for internal security with grossly inadequate resources. It may consider that trying to impose radical change in such circumstances would overwhelm the capacity of the organisation to cope.

Regardless of senior leadership’s motives, the absence of pressure from within reinforces the need for political leadership to provide the policy, resources and oversight to drive the reform process forward. The discussion of individual motives also suggests that ‘the power of one’ should not be forgotten. Authoritarianism seeks to suppress individuality but individuals with vision, organisational skills and drive will emerge and should be identified and encouraged. These persons, even acting separately, can give organic direction and impetus that might eventually force democratic change in and on the institutions of state, including the police and create a culture that minimises corruption.


To the Indonesian Government: Short Term

1. Appoint a multi-disciplinary, broadly representative commission to review the role, function and organisation of police within the emerging political and social structure, taking account of the introduction of regional autonomy, and clarify the law enforcement role of other government agencies.

2. Introduce legislation to implement the agreed results of the above review.

3. Establish a cabinet committee to oversee approved reforms.

4. Provide police chiefs with clear terms of appointment and goals for reform.

5. Establish a mechanism to review political activity laws, especially pertaining to treason, subversion and other crimes against the state, to ensure legitimate political activity is not impeded by threat of criminal sanctions.

6. Revise the draft police bill to emphasise the law enforcement rather than “security” role of the police.

7. Transfer the volunteer civil defence militia organisation (Hansip) to local government and disassociate it from the police.

8. Review internal security and devise an overall strategy for reconciling regional grievances within a national framework, including the role of the police.

9. Overhaul the education and training system to produce recruits attuned to the new social environment and reorient those already in the service.

10. Establish a publicly accountable body to manage police-owned businesses.

Medium Term

11. Review human resource management, including terms and conditions of employment, and expand hiring of women and horizontal recruitment.

12. Examine INP co-ordination with other law enforcement elements, especially the state prosecutor and the judicial system, and including the police forces of neighbouring countries.

13. Dispose of or revamp police businesses.

14. Develop the ombudsman’s office or a separate external review mechanism to handle complaints against the police.

15. Encourage community groups to foster co-operation with and oversight of police.

16. Encourage Indonesian politicians to take the lead on police reform, including helping to show how reform can be implemented in a non-threatening way and developing links to foreign parliamentary police oversight bodies.

17. Support non-governmental groups promoting constructive police reform.

18. Encourage graduate and post-graduate studies in policing for both police and students of public administration or political science.

19. Expand opportunities for Indonesian police to gain experience of how police forces in democratic countries are managed, controlled, and operate.

20. Adjust the level, content and material support of in-country training and expand co-operation with the INP in areas of mutual interest like international crime as and when democratic reform takes hold.

21. Support military reform as an essential complement to INP reform.

Jakarta/Brussels, 20 February 2001


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